"Experiencing the composer and pianist Arsentiy Kharitonov playing his concert Études opus 44, one can imagine the great representatives of this genre of music listening wide-eyed, open-mouthed and spellbound.
Kharitonov’s Études are not only in the tradition of their great forerunners but are on a par with them.
These are vivid contemporary works -- breathtaking, fiery and magical. A rather unique experience these days."
"As a pianist, first I would like to emphasize the effectiveness of the pianistic writing - sometimes very demanding and virtuosic writing, but the virtuosity that never separates itself from the poetic idea and from always unitary and cohesive musical structure. This union of physical gesture and composer’s intention allows the performer to be able to confront the technical difficulties of Kharitonov's pieces in a musical way, without having to expose himself to "acrobatic" or "sport" pianism. After the commitment in learning Kharitonov's pieces, one is fully rewarded with the discovery of a poetic world among the most fascinating and original music language."
In the past few weeks I have become acquainted with the music of Arsentiy Kharitonov and find it very strong, vital and extremely exciting. Here is a composer and also a fabulous pianist, who should be much better known for the music that he composes, since it is so very well constructive and immediately effective. His piano music as well as his chamber and orchestra works should become favorites with anyone who is fortunate enough to get to know them.
The City of Dis
A Symphonic Poem after
The Divine Comedy
by Dante Alighieri
This symphonic poem alludes to a particular place in Dante’s first part of the Divine Comedy - the City of Dis and its various citizens: heretics, murderers, suicides, and blasphemers, among others.
At the beginning, music suggests something archaic, unknown, yet iniquitous and dangerous - perhaps the City’s mighty walls and its gates that lead to the horrifying Lower Hell. The flute solo shines a weak light onto Dante’s apprehension of the place from which no soul can escape.
Further on, after the heavenly messenger opens the gates for him, the music depicts Dante continuing his way through the fiery tombs and corridors of the fortress with its eternal sufferers.
Musical characters may be classified into two contrasting groups: The dramatic depiction of the sinners’ torment versus Dante’s emotional reaction to what he sees. The composer juxtaposes the grand orchestral textures that signify the doomed city and the solo clarinet that represents Dante and his poetic soul.
After the last frozen ring is glimpsed and the final ominous reminder of City’s horrors sound, the distant bells remind the listener of the next stages of Dante’s travel.
"How I came to find the brilliant Russian composer and pianist Arsentiy Kharitonov is a story that can only be told in the 21st century. It was on YouTube, a video of him playing one of his dynamic and fascinating Etudes for Piano, which I instantly loved and wondered, “Who is this guy and will he write a piece for cello?” So I decided send him a message to see if anything would come of it. And something did! A few months later an incredible piece was in my inbox. Since he lives in Dallas, we spent several months sending videos and voice recordings back and forth to get it into shape, and when recording time came around he flew up to Minneapolis for the session (I happened to get a bad case of tonsillitis, but the show must go on!). Reminiscenza is dark, passionate, yearning, defiant piece. It seems to reach out from a different time and shake your soul. What an honor it is to play it and to have also gained a friend. Thank you, Arsentiy!"
I first knew Kharitonov as an outstanding piano virtuoso and only later realized that he wrote fantastic music. His writing is of the highest caliber. He creates musical landscapes of intensity and humor, vibrancy and nostalgia, mystery and passion. I began to commission pieces for my Violin Ensemble “ViolUNTi” and also for violin solo. The Four Vignettes started from the third vignette, Albumblatt (Album Leaf). When I heard it first I fell in love with it. Later, three more short pieces joined it, framing it in the best possible way.
Sonata for piano Op.50 is perhaps the most ambitious piano work by Kharitonov. It is constructed in four movements:
I. Allegro risoluto, II. Lento, III. Tarantella, IV. Marcia Funebre.
First movement is written in sonata form. The exposition presents a conflict of several opposing themes that later assures an immense dramatic expansion of musical material throughout the development. The composer resorted to using contrapuntal writing in fugato and in the following basso ostinato sections to achieve a colossal dramatic climax in the recapitulation. In the midst of all the authoritative dissonances, a beautiful second theme would most certainly enchant the listener.
Second movement alludes to a melancholic nocturne with a great sense of nostalgia. However the composer does not leave it at piece and music finds yet new heights and depths in the world of unconscious with its powerful images, of which some are truly frightening.
Third movement is called Tarantella. This fast dance somewhat restores the balance of action with its energetic articulate character. It has clearly the most tonal tendencies amongst all the movements. Supposedly festive C major ends the movement with hopes to hear the following Finale in brighter colors and perhaps triumphant character.
Yet the final movement of the sonata is nothing less than a funeral march. The Marcia Funebre consists of several improvisations/variations on a walking bass. It results in yet another enormous climax where various materials from previous movements appear. Sonata ends with distant mournful bell-like sounds. Other Russian composers come to mind with their bell symbolism: Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov, Rachmaninoff's famous intro to his 2nd piano concerto and "The Bells", as well as Prokofiev's 2nd piano sonata and 2nd piano concerto respectively.
The sonata by Kharitonov exhibits a vast range of musical characters, transcendental pianism, exceptional colors, and an unforgettable emotional charge.
The duration is approximately 20 minutes.
Dedicated posthumously to Robert Bushkov, Monologues for Solo Trumpet in C, Op.41 represent four distinct characters. Being very demanding technically, this work offers a spectacular range of colors, musical discoveries, and immense virtuosity. Monologues carry lots of symbolic motifs that play their important role in the construction of a big picture.